The Topeka RoadRunners clinched their sixth consecutive NAHL South Division playoff berth with the one point earned in Saturday’s shootout loss in Wenatchee, and now shift their focus on securing home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs which begin the first week of April.
The apparent first round opponent figures to be the Texas Tornado, who trail the ‘Runners by 4 points in the NAHL South and are skating into Landon Arena looking to gain some ground in this huge weekend series. Games will be played Friday and Saturday night at 7:05.
Neither team has been particularly sharp of late. Topeka returns home from a six game road trip with a 2-3-1 record while Texas has gone 0-4-1 in their last five. With Amarillo just two points away from clinching the NAHL South Division Regular Season title and the battle for the fourth seed a good 15 points behind Texas, the first round pairing of Topeka and Texas seems to be a lock.
The RoadRunners, like most teams this time of year are dealing with their fair share of injuries. It is nearly unheard of for both goaltenders to be down with injury at the same time, but that is exactly the case for Topeka heading into this weekend. When a goalie is injured or unable to play, league rules allow for an “emergency goaltender” to back up the rostered goaltender, as was the case in Wenatchee last weekend when Bryce Fink was called up to replace the injured Collin LeMay. When Peter Traber came out with injury, Fink was only then allowed to play, which as an aside he did extremely well. Fink has returned to his Tier III team and this weekend, the RoadRunners will dress two emergency goaltenders.
Topeka has enjoyed home ice advantage in the Semi-Final Round for the last five seasons. In 2006-07, Texas nipped the Santa Fe RoadRunners 3 games to 2, but the ‘Runners have used home ice to salt away first round series wins the last four seasons, including a 3-0 sweep of the Tornado in 2007-08 in the only other playoff meeting between the clubs.
Entering this weekend, each team has 10 games left to play. After this weekend, Topeka will play four at home and four on the road, including 2 games home and away against their old nemesis, the St. Louis Bandits, who are playing well and in a battle for the NAHL Midwest title with Janesville. Texas also plays four at home and four on the road to close out their season, including 2 at Amarillo and four games against Corpus Christi, who are currently in the drivers seat for the fourth and final playoff spot.
There is a lot on the line as these two longtime South Division titans clash in the Kansas Expocentre this weekend. Both games will be available on pay-per-view with nahl.FASTHockey.com, with free streaming audio via countrylegends1069.com, and rebroadcast in the arena at 88.9 on your FM dial.